Members of the Wayne State University School of Medicine Alumni Association celebrated the annual reunion with a special bang last weekend after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the event for two straight years.
More than 500 people registered for the three-day event, which took place May 13-15 in Detroit. The weekend began with a welcome reception at the Corner Ballpark on Friday; Continuing Medical Education sessions and tours of the School of Medicine, followed by a banquet and awards program at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Saturday; and a bus tour of Detroit and concert by the Detroit Medical Orchestra on Sunday.
Because of the cancellation of the annual reunion in 2020 and 2021, this year’s event was a “triple reunion,” celebrating the Classes of 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
“Our members were finally able to congregate and celebrate in Detroit after a two-year hiatus,” said Diane Puhl, director of Alumni Affairs and executive director of the Medical Alumni Association. “It was a wonderful time, and it was great to see so many graduates from so many classes of the School of Medicine come together again.”
During the banquet Saturday evening, the Alumni Association presented its Lawrence M. Weiner, Recent Alumni and Distinguished Alumni awards after Dean Wael Sakr, M.D., provided a School of Medicine update.
Two recipients received the Lawrence M. Weiner Award this year -- James Tyburski, M.D., and Jean Peduzzi Nelson, Ph.D. Established in 1979, the award honors outstanding contributions made to the Wayne State University School of Medicine by individuals who are not medical degree alumni of the school. Nominees may have earned a doctoral degree or completed residency or fellowship training at WSU, or may be a faculty member who completed their undergraduate medical education at an institution other than WSU. The honor is based on exceptional performance in teaching, research and/or administrative duties.
Dr. Tyburski has served as chief of Surgery at Detroit Receiving Hospital since 2003. The associate chair of the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Michael and Marian Ilitch Department of Surgery is a charter member of the School of Medicine’s Academy of Scholars.
He received his medical degree from the State University of New York, Health Science Center at Syracuse, and in 1987 moved to Detroit for his General Surgery residency and a Trauma fellowship at Wayne State University. He is certified by the American Board of Surgery in General Surgery and Critical Care Surgery.
Dr. Tyburski served as program director of the Wayne State University School of Medicine/Detroit Medical Center surgical residency from 1998 to 2017. He received nine teaching awards. He served on the Committee on Trauma of the American College of Surgeons, and is past-president of the Midwest Surgical Association and of the Michigan Chapter of the American College of Surgeons.
Dr. Peduzzi Nelson, who received her doctoral degree from WSU in 1981, is an associate professor of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences who teaches the Central Nervous System and Gross Anatomy to Year 1 medical students. Her dedication to education has been recognized with the WSU Presidential Award for Teaching and the Wayne State University School of Medicine Teaching Award.
She is a facilitator for the First Patient Course and Problem-Based Learning, and is deeply involved in improving the medical school curriculum as a member of the Social Justice Curriculum, Course Director, Pre-clerkship Education, Integration, and Instruction and Assessment committees. She has been active in the Admissions Committee, the Liaison Committee for Medical Education Review, the Animal Investigation Committee, the Segment 1 Review Committee, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, the Departmental Review Committee, and the Problem-Based Learning and Team-Based Learning Implementation Committee.
Dr. Peduzzi Nelson’s commitment to education extends beyond medical students. She gave a platform presentation on her educational study at the International Association of Medical Science Educators and a poster on innovative teaching methods at the National Neurotrauma meeting. She has given several presentations at César Chávez Academy High School and mentors a high school student as part of the Biomedical Career Advancement Program. She also mentors two Year 4 medical students on research rotations.
Since 2013, she has designed and led Brain Blast, one of the most popular modules at WSU’s annual Future Docs event. Brain Blast allows hundreds of elementary and middle school students to make brain hats, Play-Doh brains, and pipe-cleaner and bead models of neurons, and conduct an egg drop to stress the importance of wearing helmets while bicycling or skateboarding.
Her research and clinical studies focus on treatments for spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries using autologous nasal stem cells, rehabilitation and environmental enrichment. She has presented her research findings to several U.S. Senate subcommittees, and given talks in Italy, Greece and Portugal.
Dr. Peduzzi Nelson, in collaboration with Harini Sundararaghavan, Ph.D., associate professor of WSU Biomedical Engineering, and Asad Mazhari, M.D., assistant professor of Neurosurgery, developed an artificial spinal cord with functional improvement in rats with spinal cord injury. Her translational research involves evaluating the effects of intranasally-delivered stem cells on visual deficits occurring with brain injury.
She is a member of the International Association of Medical Science Educators, the National Neurotrauma Society and Women in Neurotrauma Research, and mentors medical, graduate and undergraduate students, several of whom have won research awards.
The Recent Alumni Award was presented to Ijeoma Nnodim Opara, M.D., FAAP. The award, established in 2003, is presented to an individual who received a medical degree from the Wayne State University School of Medicine within the last 15 years and has demonstrated outstanding professional achievement, community contributions or service to the School of Medicine.
A member of the Class of 2008, Dr. Opara is a double board-certified assistant professor of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at WSU, an associate program director of the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency, and an attending physician with Wayne Health. She is the founding director of the “Health Equity and Justice in Medicine” curriculum for Internal Medicine, Internal Medicine-Pediatrics and Pediatrics residents, which combines critical reflection, community engagement, scholarship and advocacy to address social and structural determinants of health and health disparities. She also chairs the Southeast Michigan Continuing Medical Education’s Committee on Social Determinants of Health Education and the Detroit Medical Center Graduate Medical Education Center for Quality Improvement, Social Determinants of Health Section.
Dr. Opara is the co-founding director of the Wayne State University Global Health Alliance, a multidisciplinary organization created to unify university and regional global health practitioners and create a collaborative community of best practices in global and urban health. She co-created and co-directs Global Urban Health and Equity, an interprofessional comprehensive certificate and competency-based global health curriculum.
Certified in Clinical Teaching by the Stanford Clinical Teaching Program and an inaugural fellow of the Academic Leadership Academy of Wayne State University, she is passionate about medical education, mentoring a number of residents and medical students in wellness, work-life integration, academics and career development.
Dr. Opara has a long history of leadership in service to the African immigrant and African American communities, and co-founded Africans in Medicine, whose mission is to unite African medical professionals to further the health interests of Africans living in the United States. She also serves as a member of the Wayne County Medical Society’s Public Health Committee and the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s Network of Academic Advisers to improve policy development and U.S. support for global health and international development.
Kevin Chan, M.D., received the Distinguished Alumni Award, presented to an individual who received a medical degree from the Wayne State University School of Medicine who has made outstanding contributions to humanitarian causes, whose contributions to the health field in the broader sense is outstanding, or for service to the school.
Dr. Chan, a member of the Class of 1987, is vice chair of Clinical Experience and Quality for the Department of Medicine at Michigan Medicine. He previously served as the medical director of Lung Transplantation and the Fellowship Training Program director for the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.
The past-chair of the Thoracic Committee for the United Network for Organ Sharing/Organ Procurement and Transplant Network, he is a member of the University of Michigan Department of Medicine Academaiae Laureati Medici or Clinical Excellence Society, was recognized with an Outstanding Clinician Award by the University of Michigan Medical School in 2015, and has received the distinction of Distinguished Chest Educator by the American College of Chest Physicians annually since 2016.
Dr. Chan and his wife Roxane Chan, a nurse, are committed to increasing the number of health care providers from underrepresented groups and disadvantaged backgrounds through the establishment of an endowed fund in support of the WSU Post-Baccalaureate Program, as well contributions to the Charles Whitten, M.D., Post Baccalaureate Endowed Fund.